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Beringia -The Continental Connection

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Where the Bering Strait now separates the Asian land mass from America by a mere 80 miles, there was once a land bridge connecting Alaska and Siberia.
A time lapse sequence showing today’s gap between the continents while compressing, say, one hundred million years of geological history into one single minute would reveal a dramatic series of cataclysms: massive earth-quakes, vulcanic eruptions and convulsions. Most conspicuous of all would be the repeated submersion of that land bridge into a tropical ocean and its remergence from an arctic sea. What is now the Bering Strait and was once Beringia could be visualized as one of the geologically most active zones on the planet.

Director: Herbert Habersack
Writer: Herbert Habersack, Sepp Friedhuber and Gero Hillmer
Camera: Robert Winkler
Edit: Martin Biribauer
Sound: Joe Knauer
Music: Kurt Adametz

An epo-film production for ORF in association with NDR, Studio Hamburg and bm:bwk

Beringia’s volatile presence above sea level has been due to radical changes in the global climate - changes that left their impact in many locations around the globe. Random flashes into the earth’s past would reveal tropical forests near the north pole, hippos swimming in the River Rhine, lions on the prowl in Sussex and Kent, ocean shore lines that were hundreds of feet higher or lower than today, as well as mile-thick ice sheets pressing down on today’s vinyards in the central Alps. Woolly mammoths and rhinos once roamed the grassy fringes of continental ice sheets. Some of their lowland pastures are now continental shelves from where fishing boats sometimes dreg their ancient bones. These and countless other species, including humans, were able to cross on dry ground from Asia to America. As long as Beringia was not flooded, it was an open floodgate of biodiversity, a channel of exchange between presently separate worlds.

Massive traces of such climatic changes have been preserved, sometimes over millions of years. They provide a thrilling record for us to read, and their ancient story deals with topics that puzzle and worry us today: Global warming, global cooling, changes in the earth’s atmosphere or the shifting of major currents and its effect on vast eco-systems. Attempting to decode that record, geo-paleontologist Gero Hillmer and biologist Sepp Friedhuber travel the world in search of the most thrilling chapters of this living book of the earth’s past, present and future.

They analyze drill cores from ten thousand feet below the surface of today’s arctic ice sheets, examine the devastations left by ancient floods and the impact of giant missiles from space. They will allow viewers to re-live own country’s past in another country’s presence. For instance, tropical forests reminiscent of those that became North America’s coal deposits are thriving today in South America. Without diminishing man’s present responsibility for the human impact on the world’s climate, this programme may reconcile us to the vicissitudes and caprioles of our planets’s life.

Fotos: Copyright by epo-film